12 Secrets Every Bride Should Know About Wedding Dress Shopping

Wedding dress shopping SHOULD be one of the most fun parts of planning your big day. However more often than not, brides leave the experience feeling depressed and confused. It’s not that trying on gorgeous gowns isn’t fun…it is! But wedding dress shopping can also be weird, scary, or even worse–you can end up with the wrong dress.

Thankfully we’ve “been there and done that,” and can share our own years of experience with you to help you feel prepared. These tips will help set your expectations so you can know exactly what you’re going to be dealing with. Because sadly when brides don’t know these things, and it ends up ruining what should be an amazingly fun day of shopping! So read on for our tips, below!

wedding dress shopping
Photo by Olli Studio

1. Wedding dress shopping is exhausting

Planning 10 appointments in one day? Um, please don’t! I advise brides to keep it to around 3 appointments a day if they can. That way you can give yourself at least an hour at each of them, and that last appointment won’t feel like you’re rushing through it because you’re tired, hangry, and ready to go home! And, this is also because…

2. Not every wedding dress boutique is going to shower you with champagne

In the movies bride-to-bes walk into a wedding dress boutique and are immediately given a gorgeous velvet couch to sit on along with a glass (or two) or champagne. Their friends are all laughing and there’s usually no other brides around them trying on dresses. I hate to ruin the fantasy for you, but this is not reality! While some boutiques will cater to your every whim, there are plenty others that feel more like a sale at Old Navy. And this isn’t just at the sample sales. I remember wedding dress shopping at a famous bridal salon in New York City when I was looking for my wedding dress, and the experience I had imagined was not all it was cracked up to be. I felt rushed, confused, and honestly couldn’t wait to get out of there. Be aware that at some of them you’ll have to sift through racks yourself, and you might have to wait in line for a fitting room. This is why most bridal salons require appointments, but even then it doesn’t guarantee you a stellar experience. Hiccups and/or annoying things are bound to happen, so just mentally prepare yourself.

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3. The wedding dress you end up getting will probably look nothing like the one you’ve always dreamed about

All my life I imagined saying “I Do” in a big, poufy, ballgown-style wedding dress. In fact, when I went to my first wedding dress appointment it was all I wanted to try on. But when I did the dresses were SO unflattering on me and I felt totally uncomfortable and blah. It wasn’t until my next appointment that I dared to try on a Trumpet and A-line style wedding dress and immediately felt AND saw how much better they looked on me.

Photo by Oldani Photography

4. Which is why you should be open to trying on any and all dresses

If the salesperson brings in a dress that she thinks will look gorgeous on you, but you think it looks ugly on the hanger…all we have to say is don’t judge a book by its’ cover! We’ve seen SO many brides try on dresses they initially scoffed at only to love them as soon as they put them on.

5. Don’t buy a wedding dress you have to talk yourself into

“I like that dress a lot but I’m not sure how I feel about the color. I’m sure at night it will look fine.” “The cut of that dress is nice but the beading is not really my style. Maybe I won’t even notice once I get it.” We do not want to hear you saying ANY of this stuff. Nobody is forcing you to buy a wedding dress you’re not crazy about, so don’t make yourself do something you’re not totally on board with. Keep trying on dresses until you find something you love. Trust us, it’s out there.

6. Also don’t buy a dress that makes you self-conscious

If you find yourself sucking in your stomach or constantly pushing up your boobs to make yourself feel good in the wedding dress, move on. I remember I tried on a gorgeous silk, flowy, Gatsby-inspired halter dress and while I loved it, I was paranoid about my stomach bulge the entire time I was wearing it. Not a good sign.

wedding dress shopping
Photo by Arte De Vie

7. You should feel beautiful in your dress at all angles

If the wedding dress store you’re in allows it, have a friend take a photo of you in the dress from the front, side, and back. If the dress looks flawless in the front but fits you weird in the back, move on.

Looking for a dress in a larger size? Here is where you’ll find the BEST plus size wedding dresses.

8. You don’t have to buy all your accessories at once

Yes, it’s easier to just buy the wedding shoes and wedding veil the store brings out for you, but take some time and shop around after you buy your wedding dress. I wasn’t even sure what type of veil or wedding shoes I wanted when the store put them on me…at that point I was just so excited about the dress that I bought the first ones I tried on. You can always go back at your next alteration appointment to buy any accessories they might recommend. In the meantime you can check out the different types of wedding veils out there as well as wedding shoes.

9. The less people you take with you, the better

Honestly, this one is tough for a lot of people, but try not to take more than 3 people with you wedding dress shopping. I think the REAL sweet spot is 1-2 people. but understand that can’t always happen. When you invite too many people it becomes an ordeal to not only travel from one appointment to another, but a lot of these boutiques aren’t equipped to handle a large group. The focus should be on you, not on being able to accommodate an entourage. And trust us, you’ll appreciate not having to worry about whether or not everybody is OK! It’s better to concentrate on a smaller amount of people, which means more time for you!

wedding dress shopping
Photo by Melissa Avery

10. Your opinion is the only one that matters

Another reason why it’s better to travel with less people to your wedding dress appointments is because you might hear too many conflicting opinions. Even though not hearing an honest opinion on a wedding dress can be just as frustrating, not being able to figure out your own amongst the noise of others’ can be worse. Realize at the end of the day you are the one wearing the wedding dress, not your family and friends.

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11. You might not find “the one” until you’ve almost given up

By the time I found my dream wedding dress, I had been to three different cities and over 15 wedding dress stores. And sure enough the place I found it was the last store I visited. Always remember that just when you think you’re never going to find it, the right one finds it’s way to you…kind of like your spouse! Funny how that happens. 🙂

12. You’ll know it when you find it…but there doesn’t have to be tears!

I’ve yet to meet a bride who wasn’t smitten with her wedding dress almost as soon as she tried it on (yes, I know you exist out there, but I’ve yet to meet you! LOL). There’s a smile that comes across your face that’s a mix of relief and excitement. Or at least that’s the way it was for me. I remember being SO giddy when I first tried on my wedding dress…I was instantly in love. But did I cry? No. But I also didn’t cry at our wedding ceremony, so maybe that’s just me. Everybody told me I would, but everybody is different. And hey, you might not even get that rush of excitement. But if you do–just minus the tears–know that it’s A-OK.

Trying to find the perfect wedding dress? This guide to the 37 Most Popular Wedding Dress Styles will DEFINITELY help you narrow down which one you want.

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  1. says: Nicole

    After countless stores, I selected a dress after hemming and hawing on it, it was pretty and the best I tried on but I wasn’t in love with it… I was taking my sweet time changing, I could hear the saleswoman / owner of this small boutique talking to my mom about how beautiful I’d look in it, how long it would take to come in, etc…once I was put together and was walking to the register the UPS guy came in with a box of gowns. So as we were getting the paperwork together, another employee opened the box on the sales floor and pulled out “the dress” – I screamed STOP THAT’S MY DRESS!! I made the owner, my mom and everyone in the store jump. The owner laughed and said someone wanted you to have this dress – It wasn’t due for 3 more days…we never open boxes on the sales floor…and I thought you passed out in the fitting room getting dressed…let’s go try it on and see if it’s everything you hope it is. The sample was a perfect fit! As soon as I came out of the fitting room my mom cried (she didn’t have any emotion with the one we picked out previously), the owner just smiled and said this dress was made for you! It’s everything! I LOVED IT (and surprisingly it was $200 cheaper!) even with the detachable laced bell sleeves and detachable cathedral train….not to mention the copper and gold threading all over..built in corset. It was meant to be..and yeah sometimes it is love at first sight <3

  2. says: Valerie

    I took my daughter and daughter in law. I chose the very last dress i tried on. Wonderful experience. We went to lunch afterwards and celebrated.

  3. says: Annie

    I feel like all of these are so true! I only took my mother with me on my first appointment, and I was getting defeated towards end of the appointment because I couldn’t find anything like I had pictured. Well my consultant came in with a dress that I wasn’t so sure about, and it was my dress. I just felt great in it, and it was the last dress I tried on. It was not what I pictured I’d buy, but I love it. Also, the store I went to doesn’t offer champagne.

  4. says: Anonymous

    The first is soooo true. It is exhausting. Physically and mentally, but when you find it ,you are so elated you forget

  5. says: Anonymous

    I dreamed of a “Barbie” wedding dress (at 42). I’m skinny with DDD boobs…im also 5’0″. I ended up buying the trumpet mermaid corset dress the owner picked out instead. At a small boutique, the big well-known stores were actually kinda rude because I didn’t have a lot of free-time.

  6. says: Jenn

    #2 is on point and the biggest mistake shops make IMO. Your dress shopping experience as a bride does not have to involve alcohol but it should be celebrated and it is emotional. It’s a once in a lifetime event. You shouldn’t be treated like you’re just shopping for groceries.

  7. says: Sherri

    9, 10 are great advice. I hate when I see bride second guess themselves because the brought to many people with different taste and opinions nnn

  8. says: Abigail

    As a person who works in a bridal shop this is pretty accurate! Except our store does have champagne and mimosas, and our stages are pretty private! Not to be biased, but our store is definitely the best I’ve seen!

  9. says: Kaitlyn

    All of these points are completely accurate for me! Especially number 11! My dress was the last dress I tried on and saw.